I hope that y'all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and a good Christmas kick-off!
This week was pretty good.
So, to start off the week, Elder Adzagah called to give me some information. He told me that Président feels like the Togo missionaries aren't working very hard, and that we seem to be on vacation. Well, I let that slip to the rest of the apartment, and they all got pretty ticked (understandably). Lesson Learned by Experience as a zone leader Number One: Learn how to sugarcoat potentially offensive but true commentaries from the Assistants and Président. In a good way. Communicate the information effectively, but gently and with an inspiring taste.
So, I was wondering about what to do to help the zone out, and I had the impression that we needed to do a zone fast. Fasting is abstaining from food or drink for two consecutive meals (or 24 hours) to receive specific blessings from our Heavenly Father. I had the impression that we as a zone needed to fast to accelerate the work in our zone, and to prepare ourselves for the zone conference with Président Morin. Elder Eperonnier was chill with the idea, and Elder Adzagah loved it. We called all of the companionships in our zone the next morning, and most of them committed to joining in the fast. I felt the Spirit.
Me and my companion are getting along pretty good. Elder Eperonnier's a great guy, he's suuuuper funny. He speaks perfect English, which he learned from just watching YouTube videos and movies in English back home. He's a fun guy to be around.
Another blessing of serving in Hedzranawoé: this super nice member, named Maman Choco, lives close to the apartment. She does our laundry for a super cheap price! My heart's warmed every time we go over to our house. She tries to reach out and be like a second mother. The people here are wonderful. (:
On Wednesday, we did a split with the Kégué elders. Elder Eperonnier went to work with Elder Mayani, and Elder Kerr, a newer American missionary, came with me to work in Hedzranawoé. Elder Kerr's a pretty great guy, he's got a great attitude, and I can tell that he's doing his best to serve the Lord. We had a great time, and we got lots of work done. We also started the fast this evening.
On Thursday, we had district splits, and I got to work with Elder Abbott. We had a pretty good time. We ended the fast that evening with a good somewhat-Charlie Brown Thanksgiving dinner; we had some bread, popcorn, and I topped us off with a key lime pie.
All throughout the week, I tried to take time to prepare for my lesson on Friday, and then the big day came: Zone Conference! Friday morning, there was some miscommunication, and it ended up being a last-minute scramble to get everyone to the conference on time. It was a rushed, stressful, panicky few minutes, but it all turned out okay.
My lesson started off a little rocky; I was so nervous! Thankfully, as the lesson continued, I felt the Spirit, and I felt calmed. The lesson was on preaching and practicing repentance, and the lesson outline was created by Elder Marcus B. Nash. You know, it's pretty hard to deliver a General-Authority-level lesson, but I still did a good job, I think. It didn't look like the zone experienced anything life-changing, but I felt like it was a good lesson. People participated, and Soeur Morin told me that she liked how I taught it. Most importantly, I felt the Spirit as I testified.
Elder Roundy talked about integrity (he used the example of A Man for All Seasons, one of my favorite films! HashtagGeekedOut), and Elder Adzagah talked about sacrifice. Soeur Morin gave us a presentation on proselyting attire. Président Morin focused on teaching 21 lessons during the week (our newest standard of excellence), and how we can use the Book of Mormon to respond to objections. I love Président, he's super inspired, and he knows exactly what to say.
On Saturday, we had Gbaguidi's baptism. Gbaguidi's been an investigator for almost a year, and he never took it really seriously, until Elders Eperonnier and Omotoyinbo just testified very boldly of the need to be baptized. That seemed to have changed his life. Gbaguidi seems like a great guy.
Also, by some miracle that Elders Angbo and Jean-Jacques produced with the help of the Lord, Noeli also had her baptism on Saturday! It was a surprise for me! I remember how much Noeli tried to avoid us/commitment, and I guess Elder Angbo's boldness just whipped her into shape. Gbaguidi wanted the Bishop to baptize him, but the Bishop was out on a medical problem, and the Attiegou elders didn't really plan out who would baptize, so I had the sweet blessing of baptizing both Gbaguidi and Noeli. The Spirit was present, and I felt the Lord's happiness for his children.
In Hedzranawoé, they actually have members who play the piano very well, so for the first time in a year, I did not sit behind the piano for sacrament meeting. Crazy feeling. I was asked to help pass the sacrament. Boy, it was a little rusty, but it was still a good experience. (:
The Hedzranawoé Ward is very well organized, and everyone seems to be so happy and nice! The Bishopric works super hard. I think I'll settle in very nicely here in Hedzranawoé. The three wards here (Hedzranawoé, Attiegou, and Kelegougan) all seem to feel like a big family. A lot of members know me already from Attiegou, so it just feels like sitting at another corner of the big family table.
After church, Elizabeth invited us, the Attiegou elders, and the Assistants to lunch at her house. I got to revisit a lot of good friends in her parcel. Everyone was so stoked to see me! All of the parents who used to hit their kids seem pretty chill and happy. Joshua has read all the way to the book of Jacob in the Book of Mormon. All of the kids I used to play with had been asking Elizabeth when I would be coming back, and they were so happy to see me! We had a good chance to play and dance around. It felt so good to be back with Elizabeth, Denise, Hilaire, Frère Bakana, and Arnaud. Whenever I'm with my "second family" of Attiegou, I think of how merciful the Lord has been in giving me the blessing of helping these people as they've turned their lives around.
One more thing, we're working with a recent convert family. The mother and daughters are all baptized, but the father is not. He was a missionary in his church, and so he kind of distanced himself from the missionaries while the rest of his family was taking the lessons. Well, the past two Sundays, he's been coming to church. Yesterday, he participated very well, had an interview with the Bishop, and told Elder Eperonnier that he wants to be baptized. How cool is that? That's a miracle right there. The Spirit sure does touch us as we attend church.
So, if there's a spiritual takeaway for this week, it would be one that really hit me as we visited an institute class after the baptismal service. The teacher was talking about the individual missions of John the Baptist, and Jesus Christ, and how we each have our own individual mission. The instructor then turned the lesson on us and asked an inspired question: "Why are you here? What is your purpose on the earth?"
It must have been a while since I sincerely pondered upon that question, because it hit me pretty hard. I know why we are all here on this earth in a general sense (to prepare to return to our Heavenly Father, to progress and learn, to obtain a physical body, to repent, to be happy), but it's been a while since I asked myself the question "Why are you here on the earth, specifically?"
In reflecting, I've felt the Spirit, and I've received some inspiring revelation. I did a mental activity:
Why am I here...
- in Hedwranawoé?: This one is still a little unclear. I'm still trying to find my pace in all that needs to be done. Lots of work to be done. I'm not in a comfort zone, but I feel like this is going to be a growth zone. I'll come back to this one.
- in this mission?: Rather simple. I thought a lot about the amis I've taught, the converts I've baptized, and the members that I've fortified. All of them were presented to me by the Lord, and He's guided my mission in miraculous ways. I know that I'm here in this mission to touch specific lives, and to set captive spirits free, and to see the Atonement of Jesus Christ change lives. So, I suppose that this one tells me why I'm here in Hedzranawoé. There are people here that need my help, and I need to lose myself in touching the lives of others with my testimony of Jesus Christ.
- on this earth at this moment?: You know, I think the answer is the same for all three. There are people on this earth that need my help. I've seen so much of the Lord's hand in my life, as He's touched people that I've known, and I imagine that I've only seen the beginning of a continuous stream of miracles. I don't exactly know who or how, but I'm excited to continue on the path that the Lord is tracing for me.
So, why are you here?
Jesus Christ taught us that "He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for [Christ's] sake shall find it." Ironically enough, the reason why you, as an individual, are here, is at least partially not even about you. There are specific, individual lives that need to be touched, and things that need to be done, that only you can touch/accomplish. As we lose ourselves in the service of others, we will find ourselves happier and filled with purpose. Funny how that works, right? During the moments when I've focused on me and I and my, I haven't been a very happy missionary. When I've focused on Thee and Thine and Theirs and You and Yours and They, I've felt more joy than I could possibly imagine. And, as a result, I've been changed, and I feel more happy with myself.
So, if you are confident in the course of life you are following, keep going. Keep getting lost in the service of others. If you feel lost, just remember: "There are times when you might feel aimless and can't see the places where you belong, but you will find that there is a purpose; it's been there within you all along, and when you're near it, you can almost hear it. It's like a symphony: just keep listening, and pretty soon you'll start to figure out your part. Everyone plays a piece, and there are melodies in each one of us. It's glorious."-Stephanie Mabey, "Glorious," as performed by David Archuleta.
I encourage you all, as you enter this Christmas season, to have a spirit of service at heart, and to light the world with acts of Christmas love. Try to find, before Christmas day, at least one person whose life needs touching. Pray for the Lord's help, and you'll be presented with someone who needs your love and talents.
I wish you the happiest of weeks! Remember, you are here for a reason. And it's glorious. (: Happy early Christmas! (: